[17] 8. Many ancient councils were called and held at which the bishop of Rome did not preside, such as Nicea and most others. This also testifies to the fact that the church at that time did not recognize the primacy or superiority of the Roman bishop.

[18] 9. Jerome says: “If it is authority one is after, the world is greater than the city. Wherever there is a bishop, whether in Rome, Eugubium, Constantinople, Rhegium, or Alexandria, he has the same worth and priestly dignity. It is the power of riches and the humility of poverty that exalts or lowers him.”
[19] 10. Writing to the patriarch of Alexandria, Gregory objects to being addressed as universal bishop. Also, he states in the records that primacy was offered to the Roman bishop at the Council of Chalcedon but that he did not accept it.

[20] 11. Finally, how can the pope be superior by divine right to the whole church when the church elects him and when gradually the custom came to prevail that emperors confirmed the Roman bishops in office? [21] Moreover, after the bishops of Rome and Constantinople had struggled for a long time over primacy, the emperor Phocas finally determined that it should be given to Rome. Yet if the ancient church had acknowledged the primacy of the Roman pontiff, this controversy could not have occurred, nor would an imperial decree have been necessary.

[22] But certain verses are cited in objection to our position, namely: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” [Matt. 16:18*]. Also: “I will give you the keys” [Matt. 16:19*]; “Feed my sheep” [John 21:17*]; and certain others. However, because this whole controversy has been treated fully and accurately elsewhere in the books of our theologians and it is not possible to rehearse the details here, we refer to those writings and wish to underscore their arguments. Nevertheless, we shall respond briefly by way of interpretation.

[23] In all these sayings Peter represents the whole company of apostles, as is apparent from the text itself. For Christ did not question Peter only but asked, “Who do you (plural) say that I am?” [Matt. 16:15*]. What is said here in the singular—“I will give you the keys” and “Whatever you bind …”—is said elsewhere in the plural: “Whatever you (plural) bind …” [Matt. 18:18*] and, in John [20:23*], “if you (plural) forgive the sins of any …” These words show that the keys were entrusted equally to all the apostles and that all the apostles were commissioned in like manner.

[24] Moreover, it must be acknowledged that the keys do not belong to one particular person but to the church, as many clear and irrefutable arguments show. For having spoken of the keys in Matthew 18[:18*], Christ goes on to say: “Wherever two or three agree on earth …” [Matt. 18:19–20*]. Thus, he grants the power of the keys principally and without mediation to the church, and for the same reason the church has primary possession of the right to call ministers. One must, then, see Peter as representing the whole company of apostles in these sayings, which consequently do not attribute to him any special prerogative, preeminence, or lordship.

[25] Granted that it is said, “On this rock I will build my church” [Matt. 16:18*], certainly the church is not built upon the authority of a human being but upon the ministry of that confession Peter made, in which he proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. For that reason Christ addresses him as a minister: “On this rock,” that is, on this ministry.

[26] Furthermore, the ministry of the New Testament is not bound to places or persons like the Levitical ministry, but is scattered throughout the whole world and exists wherever God gives God’s gifts: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers [cf. Eph. 4:11*]. That ministry is not valid because of the authority of any person but because of the Word handed down by Christ.

[27] Most of the holy Fathers (Origen, Ambrose, Cyprian, Hilary, Bede) interpret the statement “On this rock …” in the same way, that is, as not applying to the person or superiority of Peter.

[28] Thus Chrysostom declares: “Christ says ‘on this rock,’ not ‘on Peter.’ For truly he has built his church not upon the man but upon Peter’s faith. But what was that faith? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

[29] And this from Hilary: “The Father revealed this to Peter so that he might declare: ‘You are the Son of the living God.’ Upon this rock of confession, therefore, the church is built. This faith is the foundation of the church.”

Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope